July 15, 2007


And who is my neighbor? – Luke 10: 29

Most of the time, most of us have little trouble knowing what is the right thing to do. Doing it, however, is another matter. We rationalize endlessly all the reasons for NOT doing it. If this is true in obvious situations, how much more difficult it becomes when the right thing is not so obvious.

The disturbing thing about the Good Samaritan story is the implication that we are expected to serve even those we find distasteful or even disgusting. The priest & Levite were people preoccupied with doing the right thing. Yet it was the Samaritan, whose people & the Jews mutually despised each other, who in the end not only helped the victim of robbery but did so extravagantly, without limit.

This story reminds us that as Christians we must be ready to expend ourselves in service to others, even to those we think are unworthy of us. Why? Because that is the way God has treated us. Christ went to the Cross even for those who put Him there & who mocked Him. Our enemy is our neighbor. This was a disturbing notion in our Lord’s time, & it still is. How do we deal with it?

One way is on the level of obedience. We are free to choose whether or not to be Christ’s disciple, but once we’ve accepted His call, there comes a point at which we have no choice any longer. The matter of servant hood is one of those points. If we belong to Him, we obey. We do not debate or rationalize.

On another level, we can see that there is a very practical side to all this. We have self-interest built into the core of our beings – & it isn’t all bad. God has given us this concern for ourselves to be used creatively. But there is a point at which self-concern becomes self-defeating. The more we concentrate on our own fulfillment, the less likely we are to find it.

Paradoxically, it is only by being attentive to other’s needs that our own deep-felt needs can be served. It is only when we open ourselves up to others that God’s life can flow through us.

I think most of us, especially when we were younger, have had the experience of someone helping us at a critical point in our lives & the most we could do at the time was to say simply, “Thank you.” I know I have never forgotten such moments or the person who helped, even though I may not know their name. It is humbling to realize we are beholden to someone we can never repay, so we do the next best thing: we pass it on to someone who may not know or remember our name.

Such episodes, however, pale by comparison to the blessing God has bestowed upon us in the Incarnation. Not only that, He has left behind the Church so that we too can know His joy even as the first disciples did. Of course, there is no way we can begin to repay Him for the blessings He has showered on us. But what we can do is pass it on, especially to those who cannot appreciate what we do for them, much less thank us for it. AMEN!